Church 'mom' was engaging


Evelyn D. Kelly would walk into a room, assess a situation, decide what needed to be done, come up with a plan for doing it and persuade others to get behind her to accomplish the task.

Kelly's skills at organizing and delegating in a spirit that ensured people would want to follow through made her highly regarded in her church and the broader community.

Her efforts earned her nicknames such as “The Little General” and “The Energizer Bunny.” They also earned her the Knights of Columbus' Msgr. Richard C. Madden Council's inaugural Woman of the Year honor among others.

“She would say, ‘Oh! That needs to be done. Would you mind going over there and doing that?' ” says her daughter, Evelyn M. Kelly.

People often thought they were volunteering, when they really were being nudged along by Kelly, her daughter says.

It stems from her childhood. “She was the youngest of six children, and there was a lot of organization in that household,” says her daughter. “Her sister was just like her. I guess it was just a family trait.”

Kelly died April 23 at 86 after more than 25 years of sharing her giving spirit in the Greater Charleston area.

“Evelyn was a very small lady with a very big heart,” says Tom Epperson, director of stewardship at St. John the Beloved Catholic Church in Summerville. “She was just overflowing with energy all the time. She made everyone feel loved. She made everyone feel important. She made everyone feel included.”

Kelly approached people with a magnetic smile, Epperson says.

“She was always the first person that everyone met when they entered the parish. She had a way of engaging people that was just irresistible. She drew people who might otherwise have been more of a wallflower into the church's ministries.”

The numerous church activities of Kelly included Eucharistic minister, liturgical minister and trainer, hospital and nursing home communion minister and bereavement committee team caller. She also volunteered with Outreach for the Hungry and was a member of the church's Women's Club. She also was a Palmetto House fundraiser, usher for the Flowertown Players and past secretary of the local AARP. In 2002, she was inducted into Channel 5's Hall of Fame.

Each year until her sight had waned too much, she crocheted pumpkins for Halloween, stockings for Christmas, hearts for Valentine's Day, shamrocks for St. Patrick's Day and bunnies for Easter and gave them to schoolchildren, her daughter says.

“She crocheted them not only for my classes, but for my nieces' classes,” says Evelyn M. Kelly, a retired schoolteacher. “She would make upwards of 120 each year.”

Kelly was more than a worker or an organizer, says Epperson. “The thing that was unique about Evelyn is that she was a team builder. There are many more people involved in the church's ministries because of her.

“We have 1,700 families,” says Epperson. “I worked very closely with Evelyn. She was just tremendous. Just about everyone was in some way touched by her life. We called her ‘Mom Kelly.' ”

Reach Wevonneda Minis at 937-5705.